Desmon Silva, 22, was working on the frontlines of the pandemic at a hospital in Tampa, Fla., last summer when he contracted COVID-19
Desmo Silva
Credit: gofundme

A Florida nurse is finally home after spending months in the hospital battling an illness related to COVID-19 that left him paralyzed.

Desmon Silva, 22, was working on the frontlines of the pandemic at a hospital in Tampa, Fla., last summer when he contracted COVID-19.

On July 16, Desmon stopped breathing and was placed on a ventilator, according to a GoFundMe to cover his medical expenses. He then became paralyzed from the neck down.

Two months after testing positive for the coronavirus, Desmon was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which is a rare disease that affects the nervous system and is usually contracted following viral infections, according to Spectrum Bay News 9.

"It's been difficult. You're kind of helpless, in a way," his father, Jose Silva, told the news station. "To see him smiling and joking actually gives us strength to keep moving forward with his recovery."

Desmon, who was receiving treatment for his illness in the Boston area, was finally discharged from the hospital and flew home via Jet ICU on Monday, according to Boston 25 News.

Jet ICU is a company based in Desmon's hometown that uses private aircrafts as flying ICUs, fitted with all the equipment needed for any patient. The company offered its services — which usually cost $25,000 — to Desmon for free, according to the local news station.

"We heard about the case, he's a local, so it hits home," Jared Wayt, director of Emergency Medical Services at Jet ICU, told Boston 25. "It's extra special when we're able to take care of one of our own, you know, we're all healthcare providers going through all this together."

At this time, it's not clear if his paralysis is temporary or permanent, his GoFundMe page says. However, he is making progress.

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An update shared in January says that he regained the ability to sit on the edge of his bed with some assistance and was safely being weaned off some of his medications.

"Desmon has a long way to go but we want to give him the best chance we can by eliminating one obstacle at a time," the update reads.

Despite his current obstacles, "Desmon remains full of life," according to his loved ones who created the page.

"Desmon's smile could light up the skyway," the page states. "His giggle could make waves ripple through oceans worldwide. His zest for life could move mountains. He will fight the fight to come back, but he has a long road ahead."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.